Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A bit about the term “respect”

One thing I see a lot of is that a lot of theists demand respect for their religion.  

What I think is happening is that a lot of theists think that respect means the same as politeness, consideration and tolerance.  It doesn’t, at least not all of the time, or we wouldn’t need those other words.  The term respect, in the context of having it for a person or thing, means that one acknowledges that something has worth or value.  The idea that all ideas or all people deserve respect with no prior information about said person or idea is a flawed concept since one cannot assume worth or value without evidence.  There’s a lot of things I have no respect for and I’m sure readers have their own lists.  

Now, one can be polite and tolerant to find out if respect is deserved.  One can be polite to those one disagrees with, by offering careful thought and commentary about the claims offered, and by not relying on abuse.  That means that politeness does not mean that one cannot be direct and ask hard questions that make the claimant uncomfortable. One can be tolerant by allowing things that one does not agree with to be practiced and claimed. However, that does not mean that one cannot criticize such practices if valid criticisms can be offered.  

For instance, in a prior post, I said that the opinions of Plantinga (a Christian apologist) were no more worth respect than those of a three year old who claimed they had an invisible friend.  I can say I respect the *person* as a human being who deserves to have their claims considered. I can respect that a compilation of myths of a culture can reveal much about that culture.  I can respect the *right* of a human being to believe pretty much what they want (to the limit of harming others), but respecting the person, the story,  and the right does not mean I do or that I have to respect the claims being put forward about such things and it certainly doesn’t mean I cannot criticize such claims.  

Many theists think that their religious claims should be automatically respected, and I think that comes from their belief that their claims are special and are the truth. They have been told that their religion is true by people they trust and often have good reason to trust (parents, friends, etc). This leads to misplaced faith, all built on the very real respect they have for those trusted people.  This allows for a lot of compartmentalization, where people wall off what they want to believe from those things that are up for questioning.  Rather than dealing with the cognitive dissonance, they decide that some things cannot be examined with the same rigor as others. 

There have been thousands of years and people who have believed in some version or other of gods, but the invocation of popularity and tradition, and the awkward variant on the appeal to authority (this trusted person was right about something so they are right about everything) to demand respect simply gets mired in the fallacies those are.   

Until those claims are supported by evidence there is no reason to respect them. If an adult said that they believed in the tooth fairy, or Santa, or reptiloids or gray aliens or Bigfoot, and claimed that they had evidence of such things, I would have no reason to respect their claims until the evidence was produced and examined. The baseless belief in Santa is worthless to me.  This applies just as well to anyone who claims that there ghosts, gods and fairies. 

Since respect is based on evidence of worth, this also means that evidence must be more than hopeful claims.  It should often be unique, especially in regards to claims of deity, where religions compete for being the only true one.  It should be able to be objective, personal anecdotes are as limited in value here as they are in criminal trials.  It should not be directly contradicted by other baseless and oh-so hopeful claims about the same event/item, for then we have many sets of  could be wrongs and nothing that can be shown right.  

And that, my readers, is why I have no respect for religion and a lot of other very human ideas and have great respect for others.

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8 responses to “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A bit about the term “respect”

  1. Nicely put.

    Ben won’t post my comments anymore. He wrote me an email informing me. Seems he’s not secure enough in his opinions and beliefs to have them challenged publicly. Can you get a more textbook Christian apologist than him?

  2. Excellent.

    Today I got a christian comment on one of my posts saying that they are offended by what I write and they are praying for me that the wall of cynicism will crumble and that I will allow Jesus into my heart. If he was a regular, I would definitely point him to this post.

    • well, considering how well prayer works for Christians, I’d say no one has anything to worry about. At this point, I must have had hundreds of Christians sure that their prayers for me will force me to worship their version of their god. It’s sad really, this wishful thinking that fails so badly and they are convinced will work.

  3. This reminds me of many religion’s armor of faith as explained on Greta’s blog. For some reason, faith in a religion is given more leeway than nearly faith in anything else…

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